Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


A term that was created to refer to poor, formerly colonial countries, in contrast to the dominant capitalist-industrial First World and the communist Second World. Third World became the preferred term of scholars and activists who resisted using the word underdeveloped because they believed it implied (1) that the poorer countries were inferior and (2) that they could become "developed" simply by imitating the wealthier countries.

In recent years, some writers have used Third World to refer to disadvantaged groups within the First World, including people of color and those whose ethnic origin is in the Third World.

Madeleine R. Cousineau

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